Looking resplendent in Hard Hats - an essential for that day because the slopes were covered with loose debris.
Looking resplendent in Hard Hats - an essential for the day because the slopes were covered with loose debris.

2019 Trail Maintenance Year in Review

Challenged by fire and rain in 2019, our work on the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains reminded us of how these forces can change the landscape. Dense chaparral one day, charred wasteland the next day and then followed by a flower-covered Eden months later.  Flames from the Woolsey fire burned miles of the Backbone Trail. Without chaparral to hold back the flow of water, the rains then ripped the soil from the tread, redistributing more than a few rocks and boulders.

Winter rains and increased sunlight signaled long dormant annual flowers that their time to live was now! Shrubs began to sprout from charred stumps. We saw phenomenal growth of plants both native and invasive. Plants crowding along and inside our trails kept our crews busy. At year's end, as the chaparral recovered, evidence of the Woolsey fire diminished, the Backbone Trail re-opened, and we were busy preparing our trails for the next year of usage by hikers, bikers, equestrians and runners.

Hard to believe the trail went through here - wheelbarrows full of rocks and dirts were moved to fill these ruts.

We ended 2018 and began the year working with NPS - rebuilding drains to control the flow of water and filling in trenches gouged out by rain. Our drains on the Sandstone Peak Trail held up well. Out of the 61 drains, two were overwhelmed by the amount of water coming down and had to be fixed. The trail user community were anxious to help rebuild their trails. We held several events attracting large groups of hikers, trail runners and bicyclists. These efforts enabled us to repair more of the damaged trail. The bulk of the work repairing the Backbone Trail was done by National Park Service and their crews augmented by organizations like ours. Mike Zenan (NPS) managed to get the Backbone Trail opened again by June - a tribute to his focus and leadership.

Our crew rebuilding a drain on Sandstone Peak.

Our Year in Numbers

98 events were held in 2019

88 events on trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

5,611.5 hours of volunteer labor performed on the trails

550 unique volunteers provided 1,753 hours of labor

17 dedicated volunteers accounted for more than 3,000 hours!

175 volunteers from California State Univeristy Channel Islands worked 798 hours

Our crew rebuilding the BBT near Kanan.
Our crew for the day included: (L to R) Jon, Dave, Dr. Dave, George, Barry, Bill, Greg, Jason, Denise

Along the way, we worked with CORBA, Trail Runners, Girlz Gone Riding, Sierra Club Task Force, and North Face Employees. With a shared appreciation for our trails, we repaired and worked together for a common cause.

Our Trail Days event in April drew a large number of volunteers eager to fix the damaged sections of the Backbone Trail that winds it way through the park. NPS held a Trails Event in June that helped to re-open the Backbone Trail between Trancas Canyon and Etz Meloy (We provided a dozen crew leaders).

Sharon and Norm.
Norm and Sharon - long time regulars. Jerry, Barry, Barb, John, Don, and the incomparable, Bill D

Working on trails where most vegetation was burned provided a stark contrast to the Summer/Fall where we employed gas powered trimmers to clear large amounts of brush. Three trails in Point Mugu State Park received considerable attention: Fossil Trail, Old Boney (East of Blue Canyon) and the Hidden Pond Trail. Choked by brush, these popular trails were systematically restored after many weekends of work.

Anne and Sylvia doing some masterful tread work. Girlz Gone Riding out in full force to assist. Cleaning up after the brush cutter.
Anne and Sylvia doing some masterful tread work. Girlz Gone Riding out in full force to assist. Jon, Don, Jerry cleaning up after the brush cutter and John operating the brush cutter.

Why do we work on trails when we could hike them? We do both, because we find a similar enjoyment in trail work.  Creating a drain or out-sloping the tread - requires skill, physical effort, some creativity and provides a boost to your esteem. Watching the water channel off the trail after a rain is rewarding. Watching other trail users move along the trail - unimpeded by the brush you have removed - provides an opportunity to do something for others and to take care of the medium, that adds so much to your life.

The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Barry and Greg, at the end of the day still smiling - we love working on trails!
Barry and Greg, at the end of the day, still smiling - we love working on trails!

Come work with us for an event and you note that the work is satisfying and fun. Work with us three times and there is the possibility that the bond we share as trail workers will be something you want to be part of.  Trail work can be a life changing experience as you learn new skills and view our trails in new ways.

Image of Volunteer working
John Kross, smiling, despite the vast amount of mustard in front of him. So Much Mustard! There is a trail in this picture, somewhere.

Our Most Dedicated Regulars

Our Rookie of the year award goes to Jon Sheldon - who put in 163 hours of volunteer labor during 2019. One Saturday, during 2019, Jon showed up to work. He worked hard and kept coming back. Before we knew it, it was like Jon had always been working with us. We are delighted that Jon has found a place amongst our hard working and dedicated trail workers!

Jerry using a Flail Mower to masticate and mulch the mustard in La Jolla Valley.
Jerry using a Flail Mower to masticate and mulch the mustard in La Jolla Valley. The machine was essential to clearing this trail.
Our most dedicated Crew Leaders - John Kross, Jerry Mitcham, Dave Edwards, Norm Simmonds and Barry Dydyk
Our most dedicated Crew Leaders - John, Jerry, Dave, Norm and Barry. If you look closely, Greg is at the right edge of the frame. He is also a dedicated leader.

Highlights - Previous Years: